After his stellar performance against Manchester United in the 2006 Amsterdam Tournament, when Manchester United announced the signing of Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira the following summer many fans were ecstatic.
His first season saw him make 24 appearances in the Premier League, putting in some good performances against the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, however since then his decline in the midfield hierarchy has made supporters seriously question his place in the team, whilst some have suggested that he is in fact sold to cut our losses on what Porto said was £25.6 million deal. Nonetheless, the circumstances of his United career, some from his own misjudgement, leads me to believe that it would be criminal to let a player of his quality go and the contribution that he provides to us as a team.
Anderson – Porto and Gremio
Before Anderson’s exploits in Manchester are reviewed and analysed, it would be worthwhile to see how he measured up at his previous stomping grounds. It was his play and performances that had clubs all over Europe drooling over him and making comparisons with Ronaldinho (although it may have just been the hair and skin colour that gave them that impression).
Gremio – Winger
Anderson signed with Gremio at the tender age of 5, he trained with the youth team until 23rd October 2004 when he was given his first start for the club aged 16. But it was a bittersweet season for the Brazilian to say the least, as Gremio were relegated to the second division. Having shone at the FIFA U17 World Cup, there was a lot of interest in Anderson yet he stayed loyal and remained at the club.
That season it was his goal got them back in the Brazilian Serie A, in a game that has a special place in Gremio history. Down 4 men in the in the 106th minute, Anderson struck to send Gremio back to the top tier of Brazilian football. His impressive skill and vigorous dribbling was sa refreshing alternative to the skill set of other Brazilian youth at the time and this made him attractive to Europe’s big clubs and ultimately it was Porto who secured his services.
Porto – Attacking Midfielder
Anderson signed for Porto at the end of the Brazilian season in January 2006, travelling with his mother due to FIFA rules and regulations. He made only five appearances for Porto that season as they became champions, but it was the following season that Anderson would begin to impress. He shone in the Amsterdam Tournament, where his future employers watched on as he competed against Manchester United, producing a notable display.
Some say it was this performance that would convince United to splash the cash on the Brazilian, interesting as Porto had only signed him 8 months before. But his progress and development in Portugal came to an abrupt halt when he broke his leg, an injury that would keep him out of the action for more than 5 months.
Looking back it appears this could be the beginning of Anderson’s much documented struggle with injuries.
Before Anderson had even kicked a ball for Manchester United, there was much excitement about his talent. He was picked in the 2007 Copa America winning Brazilian team although he participated in only two games in the tournament; one being as a substitute in a 2-0 defeat to Mexico and his first start against Chile, in which the team won 3-0.
This delayed his pre-season preparation with the Red Devils and his first ever game came in a pre-season friendly against Doncaster Rovers, where the Premier League champions ran out comfortable 2-0 winners. In his first season for the club, he played 38 games in all competitions, only 5 less than Rooney in that same season.
He performed in a midfield two, often partnering Owen Hargreaves. Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez would be the players who would garner the headlines, but Anderson played his part in the stunning performances that swept aside Premier League teams and helped Manchester United achieve Champions League glory (much emphasis is placed on his penalty in the shootout as revitalising the team). He complimented Hargreaves brilliantly by being the presser in the midfield and also holding the better passing capabilities of the two, while Hargreaves acted as a protective screen for the defence.
The next season, he would perform in the same amount of games as the previous but with seven less appearances in the Premier League and 5 more in the League Cup (scoring the winning penalty in the final). He also competed in the semi-final and final of the FIFA Club World Cup. That season saw Manchester United clinch their third title in a row, and Anderson’s second.
As we entered into a new decade, it all started to go wrong for the midfielder from Porto Alegre. He was not starting enough games and he was punished for going back to Brazil without the club’s permission thus fined £800,000.
When he finally did start, his lack of games caught up with him as he ruptured cruciate ligaments in his knee against West Ham, causing him to miss the rest of the season and lose his spot in Brazil’s World Cup squad. Anderson’s frustrations grew as he had to watch from the sidelines as United lost the title to Chelsea, as well Brazil crashing out in the quarterfinals to beaten finalist Holland.
Anderson returned to training in August from his cruciate injury but his time on the sidelines was lengthened having been pulled from a serious car accident in Portugal. He made his return in The Red’s Berbatov inspired 3-2 win over Liverpool. He would turn out for United 7 times more than he had the previous season but fans and journalists alike saw his performances as below par and claimed he was undeserving of his place at United.
“This is Anderson’s last chance”
Many fans shared this sentiment prior to the 11/12 season. Anderson started like a house on fire, playing well in the Charity Shield against Man City. In the Premier League, he helped himself to a goal against a Tottenham, admittedly without Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor, and starred in United’s 8-2 crushing of Arsenal.
All the while, he built up a partnership with Tom Cleverley that worked well going forward but were a little bit open defensively. Anderson scored his second goal against Norwich in a 2-0 win, but 22 days later Anderson, and the whole team were brought back down to earth with a bang! He and Fletcher allowed David Silva and Yaya Toure to dominate in midfield as City bullied in six goals at Old Trafford in the derby.
Anderson wasn’t even able to rectify his poor performance as he picked up an injury that was supposed to keep him out for 4 months. He came back two months early to be a substitute in the New Year’s Eve defeat to Blackburn, contributing to Berbatov’s goals and putting in a good performance considering his circumstances and the circumstances of the match.
He then went on to get another injury, making just 3 more appearances in the new year.
Why Anderson is worthy of staying
When United fans complain about Anderson, it is more to do with consistency than ability. With his midfield counterpart Carrick, people ask: “What does he actually contribute to the team?” but with him, much like friend Luis Nani, where they ask “Why is he so inconsistent?”
No one can question Anderson’s ability. His passing prowess can all but be backed up by the gorgeous pass he played to Valencia against Schalke. When he plays for United, he seems to have a connection with Rooney where they link up very well and create moves of beauty. He not only did it with Rooney but also Ronaldo and Tevez when they were at the club too.
When Anderson plays, he plays with an aggression that was not really present in the best Brazilian talents that came through at the same time as him. His physique allowed him to muscle players off the ball, and his strength meant he could easily make runs through the middle with bouncing off of him. It was this trait, more than his others, which made Ferguson use him as a central midfielder and not a winger or attacking midfielder, like his prior clubs.
To compliment his aggression and strength, he also has a tremendous work rate where he can operate box to box, whether it is him on the ball, a teammate or an opponent. His willingness to run this much is something that is exclusive to him and Darren Fletcher in the United midfield and it is one of the reasons why Ferguson was hoping from him to become available again because Carrick and Scholes provided very little energy in the middle.
It has been stated Anderson lacks the discipline, fire and the will to play for United ad these factors have contributed in the number of injuries he picks up but there are other factors.
I feel Anderson’s disillusionment started when Carlos Queiroz, a major player in getting Anderson to join Manchester United, left to manage Portugal. This was compounded when Ronaldo left, a player who he had grown close too. In addition, he was dropped for a significant period during the 09/10 season.
His weight has also been called in question, with many a fan questioning his diet and partying habits. Judging from pictures of the midfielder, it was at Porto where he gained weight but he has not put on anything substantial since. Anderson may carry a bit of weight and enjoy a good party (who doesn’t?) but we should overlook this and look at his performances and ability.
Anderson needs to knuckle down and work hard to make it here, he has shown he can before but he needs to do it constantly rather than in spells. If he does so he will find first team chances easier to come by.
For me it is clear that, if given a prolonged stay in the team, he can produce the performances that we desire from a player of his quality.